In memory- Feb. 9, 1908 — Jan. 22, 2013
Sitting in a grade 9 art class I wondered how I could do a book cover art project and relate it to the latest “infatuation” in my life. I cannot remember how the word eagle came in to play right now and wonder if it might have been his nickname. But there I was showing art teacher Miss Marion Phelps my idea of doing a cover for a book called The Eagle Has Landed. She lowered her glasses a tad and gave me a small pat on the back. Quite perplexed; she asked me why on earth I was going to do something like that when others in the class were doing book covers of popular subjects. Of course she was completely right and had she known the real reason she would have politely suggested that I choose another subject.
I was never an artist as I am the Queen of stick-figures but Miss Phelps always tried to bring out the best in me and everyone else. That year in grade 9 I won an award for art and still to this day have no idea why.
Almost fifty years later everyone remembers Miss Phelps and to some like former CHS student Jim Manson, she became his mentor. In the Stanstead Journal in 2001 Manson gave an interview how she helped him with research when he was getting his PHD at Concordia. He became engrossed in Samuel Willard who had spent many years petitioning the Quebec government for land owed to him in 1792. For two years Manson haunted the archives with Miss Phelps being the head historian cheerleader. Manson published a booklet and became part of the Brome County Historical Society and it was all thanks to our Miss Phelps. Jimmy Manson was not the only one that had fond memories of her and here are some comments from former students of Cowansville High School.
Claudia Forster Allen- Not only did I like Miss Phelps as a teacher for all obvious reasons as we’ve said before . . her passion for history (local) and getting us to know our own history but she babysat me as a little girl when I was still crawling. It was in the apartment over the Dairy .. lol my parents lived there when they were first married. I would go in and immediatly go for the cupboards and throw around and bang her pots and pans. She told me the story years later. I would also stand in the window and watch the cars go by. . . and pee my pants. . lol I think she lived with her mother and they would just laugh.
Audrey Bromby- I had her in 6th grade, and she was very quiet, soft spoken and very kind. She was in the Fordyce Women’s Institute and used to come to our house when my mother had the meetings at our house. I remember one time when she came, there was a painting on the wall done by my brother, Bob. She stood looking at it and said that she should have given him a better mark.
Bob Bromby- I recall that”piece of art”, a still life bowl of fruit. I believe she gave me a 61% on it, which was close to the 59% FAIL and the worst mark in the class. Truth is that Miss Phelps drew most of it as she would frequently lean over my masterpiece and erase portions of my pitiful attempt to produce a classic and redraw it. She did this so many times that there was little of my ‘blooming talent’ left to see. The following year I went back to taking ‘Gym’ where I could at least clear the boxhorse. To this day I can draw a mean stick man. I only took the class at the urging of Stan Aiken (who did have talent) because he didn’t want to be the only guy in the class. I wonder if that ‘painting’ is still around…
Wayne King- Loved her.
Barbara Goettel Lacroix– I had Miss Phelps in Grade 6. When she was writing on the blackboard, we used to copy each others work!! I believe she was a bit hard of hearing also. She was a great art teacher – only year that I ever drew anything.
Margaret Clay Jacob– I also had Miss Phelps in Grade 6. I really don’t remember that much about her actual teaching other than, as Audrey mentionned, she was soft spoken and kind. I loved her art classes and took them in Grade 9 & 10.
Linda Knight Seccaspina– She was one of the few teachers that believed in me.
Beverley Hastings Howman- I remember her art classes – my best subject. And the day Keith Bell posed for a full length pencil sketch (clothed of course). Good memories!
Claudia Forster Allen– it was, she was a lovely lady . . . inside and out . . . 🙂
Pennie Redmile- Not only was Miss Phelps a good teacher- but her love for local history caused her to “take on” the Quebec Gov’t (about 20 years ago- – in her 80s) The Gov’t wanted to straighten the hwy between Sweetsburg & West Shefford (Bromont) — Near W Shefford, they were going to build their road over one of the earliest cemeteries. Miss Phelps was not about to allow that– & she made her voice heard. Amazingly, the Gov’t heard her outrage– & though they had no intention of changing their road’s new location, they offered to put up a monument in the Methodist cemetery in W Shefford, with all the names & dates of the deceased from that old pioneer cemetery! Thanks to Miss Phelps intervention – that monument exists as a lasting memorial to some of the very early Shefford settlers!!
Pennie Redmile– With so many of her former students not living in the area, you may not know that every year there is a “Marion L Phelps Award” given to a person who has contributed a great deal to the preservation or promotion of local history in an area of Quebec. The first one went to Miss Phelps some years ago. I wasn’t there to see her accept- but I was at the same conference & she was just “beaming”. & I’m not certain of the precise wording of the award– but if no one else knows – I can find out.
There is a series of books available on the Canada Archives & Library website called “Dictionary of Canadian Biography” & Miss Phelps contributed some of the articles about earlier “folks” from out home.
Adelaide Lanktree– Miss Phelps is living at Manoir Lac Brome in Knowlton. I’m sure that she would love to hear how much she was appreciated. She is 103 years old.
Miss Phelps was actually born on a farm in South Stukely, Quebec, and graduated from Macdonald College with an intermediate teacher’s diploma. Phelps has been given numerous awards throughout the years for her dedication to the history of the Eastern Townships but really it is the award of the heart that she deserves to get as she touched all of ours and will never be forgotten. Miss Phelps, there will never be a day where I or others forget what you brought to our lives and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
From the Book by Linda Seccaspina and her fellow Students at Cowansville High School–Cowansville High School Misremembered– available at Wisteria in Carleton Place and all on Amazon sites.
Feb. 9, 1908 — Jan. 22, 2013: Remembering Marion Phelps
Brome Lake loses one of its most esteemed residents Marion Louise Phelps, distinguished Townships teacher, archivist and historian and widely acknowledged as “the” authority on Brome County history, died last week in Knowlton. “It is with sadness that we inform you of the death of Marion Phelps, former archivist and longtime volunteer of the BCHS,” said Arlene Royea, managing director of the Brome County Historical Society (BCHS). “Miss Phelps passed away on January 22 at the age of 104, just a few days short of her 105th birthday.”Royea, who knew Phelps since 1977, called her “remarkable.” Royea also visited Phelps on a daily basis at Manoir Lac Brome, a retirement residence in Knowlton.Phelps was the daughter of William W. and Maude (McDougall) Phelps of South Stukely. She attended the Blake School, the Stukely Village School and Waterloo High School before graduating from the School for Teachers at Macdonald College. She went on to teach at Ste. Agathe and Waterloo High School before going on to Heroes’ Memorial High School in Cowansville. An outstanding teacher, she was awarded the Order of Scholastic Merit by the Department of Education in 1960.Always interested in history, Phelps was a leader in organizing and giving classes in local history and genealogy for the Missisquoi Community School during the 1950s. From those classes a renewed interest in the Missisquoi County Historical Society was kindled. Although still teaching, she spent many hours organizing the books and documents that helped to get Missisquoi Historical Society back on its feet. In 1959, Phelps was appointed curator of the Brome County Historical Society.